Written evidence submitted by Dan Hunt (VVF002)
Transport Select Committee Part 2
Vauxhall Zafira Car fire Face book Questions & Concerns
In previous responses from Vauxhall they have blamed the Resistor for being improperly repaired this has been the main point to which they have used to make it look like they have done no wrong in causing the Fires. We accept that improper repairs were a cause of some of the fires. However there was a large majority of cases where Vauxhall only serviced cars caught fire so only genuine parts were used proving that improper repairs was not the only cause of the fires.
In recall 2 Vauxhall mentioned that “In a specific set of circumstances the resistor fuse may fail”. They did not elaborate at the last meeting what these specific circumstances were?. It transpires that the fuses were failing to cut the power to the motor and resistor due to the thermal fuse not breaking cleanly. The Thermal fuse solder was not melting properly so when the solder melted it went all stringy and allowed the Thermal fuse to stay in contact and not break cleanly as expected. This would allow the resistor to eventually overheat and burst into flames causing the vehicle fire. This was caused by a design problem with this solder as when exposed to water and corrodes it does not melt correctly causing the stringy solder effect. The new red resistor encases the soldered thermal fuse so it cannot corrode and be damaged by water ingress. Why has Vauxhall not come forward with this new information and more publicly announced the technical situation and vindicated the local garages as the main culprits for this issue when this is clearly not the case. Vauxhall need to take some of the responsibility for this issue and admit they are also responsible for the car fires due to the design problem of the Thermal fuse.
In 2010 the Zafira C was being designed and manufactured ready for launch in 2011. Usually when designing new models the Old models problems are highlighted to the design team so they can improve and design out the old issues to make the new product better and more reliable. Looking at the design of the Zafira C there has been significant design changes made to the HVAC system, which has taken into account that if water was to ingress into the HVAC system, that it can now be safely routed away from the key components that can corrode and cause the fires.
These changes include a drain hole in the blower motor to allow the water to drain away.
and the bearing is now protected from water by the plastic casing of the motor,
the bearing is under here.
Why would these specific changes be made if Vauxhall was not aware of the damage water ingress into the HVAC system can do?
HVAC System Overload
When the Blower motor corrodes and starts to struggle to turn due to the corrosion this puts undue electrical and heat stress on the whole HVAC system. In recall 2 Vauxhall have only replaced the parts that have been observed by them to be damaged. What about the other components in the HVAC system that has suffered stress due to the corroded motor like the Speed & Air directional controller? This is a picture of a melted Speed controller that has been damaged by a corroded motor.
You cannot see the damage unless you take it apart, so Vauxhall have no way of knowing if it is damaged or not. It’s a sealed unit and it is not meant to be taken apart for inspection. Why has Vauxhall not replaced all the components in the HVAC system including the wiring loom to ensure the system is returned to the customer in Original factory condition? This way all damage caused by the corroded motor will be removed, even though it cannot be seen and peace of mind & satisfaction can be given to the customer that the system is now fully functional again. We are seeing many unsatisfied owners having their car returned to them with the heating system still not fully functioning properly due to the hidden damage the corroded blower motor has caused. This then causes further stress as the owners have to fight to have this repaired for free as most dealerships try to charge for this work. Completely unacceptable.
Vauxhall’s Handling of the recall.
In December 2015 The Facebook Group Vauxhall Zafira fires submitted Technical information to the DVSA which was then passed on directly to Vauxhall this report detailed why Recall 1 will not be sufficient in fixing the problem. No confirmation was given by Vauxhall that this report had been received and no further communication was made by Vauxhall to us in regards to asking for Technical information that was being gathered by our page. The information gathered by the group was of enormous value yet Vauxhall did not want to know. It has taken nearly 1 year for Vauxhall to now approach us and ask for specific technical information we have that may help them understand the situation better. Why did Vauxhall not ensure they had excellent communications set up with us so any new information we gathered could be acted on promptly? It feels like we were shut out of this situation which has just caused things to drag on at the detriment of the owners.
The Recall Process
The whole process of the recall has been a debacle from start to finish. It has not gone smoothly at all.
This is a list of key points of where things are going wrong, with the current Recall 2 16-C-050.
1, Poor heat from the heater which is not sufficient to heat the vehicle.
2, The directional controls do not work properly so the owner is unable to demist their windscreen properly in the morning.
3, Noisy and vibrating blower motors.
4, Burning smell coming from the new motor. (This really distresses the owner as they are so worried the car is going to catch fire at any minute!)
The problems listed means the customer has to then return again to the dealership to sort these new issues out. The owners report that the dealerships to be unhelpful and dismiss the customers concerns with little investigation work to rectify the issue. The Dealerships common stance is that these additional issues are nothing to do with the recall and that all work will be chargeable in investigating the issue. It again goes back to the fact the dealerships are not making any money from this recall and further problems will be dismissed as much as possible by the dealership, to ensure they can focus on the paid work coming in.
The Facebook group initially contacted Peter Hope to help resolve these disputes. Peter did help a tremendous amount and did resolve all the issues to the customer’s satisfaction, which is great. It was getting to the stage with so many people, with after recall 2 issues it was overwhelming our admin system, so we have made a email template so the owner of the vehicle could complain directly to Peter Hope to resolve the issues. However I think Peter is struggling to cope as well because many Facebook members report that he does not answer their emails. The volume of complaints does suggest that Recall 2, is NOT resolving all the issues, that the corroded blower motor subjects the HVAC system to, purely because the parts going wrong have not been included to be replaced in the recall and there is not through checking from Vauxhall all is o.k. before the vehicle is handed back to the owner.
The recall paperwork does cause a lot of confusion for the dealership and the customer. Here is a list of the issue we have found.
How do the Zafira Owners feel about the recall process?.
1, Air Intake and ducting system
2, Blower motor
The ECC Model also shares some of the failures that the Zafira B has.
1, Water can get into the blower motor as no protection available at the air intake to prevent this.
2, The blower motor fails due to corrosion as the water sits in the bottom of the blower motor housing corroding the motor.
Vauxhall have assessed and confirmed that the ECC model is not at risk because it does not use the heater resistor so the same defect where the fuse does not blow correctly is not present.
The ECC uses a blower regulator instead of a heater resistor which is not affected by water ingress as it is a sealed unit. However we are not convinced this is the case, as we now have two fire reports from GBB confirming that the fires did start from the glovebox area, with similar burn patterns as witnessed on the Zafira B cars.
There has been an incident where the blower regulator has started to smoke in a Vauxhall dealership and the blower fan would not turn off even with the keys out of the ignition the cause of the smoke was the failing blower regulator. To us this is an early warning sign that the corroded blower motor has electrically and thermally stressed the regulator and caused it fail. Just like we are seeing the speed controllers on the Zafira B’s to fail as they have been subjected to the same stresses due to the corroded motor. Yet Vauxhall continue to ignore these early warning signs and do the right thing and commence a full recall of the ECC models.
If there was absolutely no problems with this system and Vauxhall were 100% confident with this system, why have they released a Special Warranty system where the customer has to contact Vauxhall and quote the Special Warranty number 2028320. Why has Vauxhall not upgraded this to full recall for this vehicle so people are made aware of this issue via the postal system? At the moment Vauxhall are relying on word of mouth from our Facebook page for the work to be completed, which includes fitting the water deflector and the new style blower motor with the drain holes in. Is this the responsible thing to do to protect people from experiencing regulators catching fire or smoking then not being able to turn it off.? Considering our audience reach is only 16,000 owners out of the 250,000 owners. We understand that not all ECC owners are on our page so there is a massive shortfall of owners that are not aware of this issue and the work that can be completed to make these vehicles safe as well. To make matters worse most dealerships do not even know about this special warranty and Vauxhall customer services need to be contacted to help put them right.
A good example of a Vauxhall Customer complaint in relation to the recall work 2.
Customer Name : […]
Reg Number : […]
Vauxhall Reference Number: SRNO: […]
Date : 18th Jan This was the Initial contact from […] to […] from the Vauxhall Zafira car fires Facebook group.
Hi […] - I'm just looking for a bit of advice if you don't mind - we have a 2014 plate Zafira and had the first recall done last year. We booked it in at […] […] LiverpooI for the 2 days recall before xmas and when we collected the car we were told a part was needed so we booked in for Friday 6th January to have the work done. We had a phone call that day to say the part had been put into the wrong car and another part would need to be ordered so we couldn't have it back until the day after.
I got a phone call on the Saturday morning which woke me up and the guy just said he was letting me know that the rear parking sensors would need to be disconnected and by law they would have to return it to factory settings so they wouldn't be reconnecting them. I was half asleep so said ok, then I woke up quickly as I realised that this meant that the sensors we had paid an extra £500 for at the point that of purchase will get removed. My husband rang them back literally 2 mins later and discussed the situation - they insisted that they would not reconnect or refund us the cost and that we would have to take it back to […] in St Helen to get the reversing sensors reconnected. We collected the car that day but they insisted we had to sign to say we had refused the recall - I wrote on the sheet that we were not refusing but they refused to do the work without reconnecting our parking sensors. When we asked for a copy they refused saying it was a legal document.
Date: 24th Jan This was our response to Peter Hope asking for his support in the matter.
Recall 2 in December was not completed and […] was allowed to continue to drive the car even though it had been diagnosed that the wiring loom was needed. Why was […] not advised it needed a new wiring loom and the system made safe eg Disconnected while the part could be sourced.
Date 24th Jan: Response from […] Manager of the Executive support team.
Thank you for your email below. Peter is out of the office today but he has asked that I reply on his behalf to avoid any delay
Please be assured we are currently investigating the issues raised and we are in contact with the customer direct
Thank you again for raising this with us and if you need anything else please feel free to contact me
Date 31st Jan: Response from […] another Executive support manager.
Dear Ms […]
Please accept my apologies for the delayed response to you.
I have just spoken to […] in the Service Department of […] and she has advised me that you have since had the works carried out on your Vauxhall Zafira.
This is a courtesy email to advise you that now all has been resolved I shall go ahead and close your case pending any further contact from yourself.
Should you require any further assistance then please do get in touch.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for contacting Vauxhall Motors and bringing this matter to our attention, and allowing me to assist.
Date 31st Jan: Response from […].
I am writing to advise that the work has not been carried out and therefore the matter has not been resolved! As per the original information provided to your office, our last with […] […] was when we were advised that they were not prepared to do the 2nd recall without reinstating the rear parking sensors. (and we were made to sign to say we had refused the 2nd recall, when in fact this was not the case, we were simply insisting that the parking sensors fitted by […] […] should be reinstated). We have not been in contact with them since that date, but as we were keen to have the recall done as soon as possible to make the car in which we transport our 4 foster children safe from the risk of fire, we have booked in to […] […] for 10th Feb whilst we awaited your reply.
I am disappointed that even after the worrying poor service thus far, this issue has still not been dealt with.
I look forward to your response.
Date 2nd Feb: This was the response from […]
Dear Ms […]
Thank you for your email.
I apologise that I never informed you of the repair being carried out with Lookers on the 10 February.
Please be advised that I have spoken to […] in the Service Department of Lookers in St Helens this morning for you, and he has confirmed to me that they will be carrying the recall along with the refitting of the parking sensors for you.
Please be assured that I will be following this closely for you, and I will update you with the progress of your vehicle.
If I can be of any further assistance at all please do not hesitate to contact me and I will do my up most to assist you.
Executive Support Manager
Very poor customer service and even when a serious problem like this has been highlighted to Vauxhall they cannot get it right. The customer has been let down every step of the way on their journey with Vauxhall. The biggest concern was ignored by Vauxhall that […] was driving around and still is driving around with a Heater loom that has been diagnosed as faulty. That has the potential to catch fire at any minute and all Vauxhall are interested in is that the car is taken back to original garage to have the work completed, at further inconvenience to the customer as Vauxhall […] Location is more convenient to […]. (The reason for this is because Lookers St Helens completed the reversing sensor work so they can claim for the extra work to sort out the reversing sensors. […] […] cannot claim so cannot do the work its ridiculous.) Where is the sense of urgency to pull out all the stops to get this rectified ASAP rather than let it drag on to suit when Vauxhall can fit it in on the 10th Feb.
I think this just shows how Vauxhall are treating their customers as second rate citizens even at the highest level. This car once diagnosed with a faulty wiring loom should have been impounded by Vauxhall and not allowed to go back on the road until the part had been replaced making it safe. This was the case with Recall 1 where Vauxhall would also arrange and pay for a courtesy car, so the customer personal life was not impacted by the faulty car. It seems things have slackened on this recall and Vauxhall are willing to take the risk and put four foster children back in an unsafe car while they try to minimise their financial loss. It is totally disgusting and for us sums up very well Recall 2!